The 2016 Bentley Continental lineup now consists of five models: GT V8, GT V8 S, W12 and Speed. Convertible variants are available as well for the V8 and W12.
The mammoth 6.0L W12 engine featured on the "W12" model makes 567 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. In the Speed, this engine is tuned to produce 626 hp. V8 models are powered by a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8, making 500 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque in the standard V8. The V8 S bumps this number to 521 hp.
All-wheel drive is the key to how the Continental gets so much power and torque to the road so effectively, making this quite heavy coupe or convertible astonishingly quick. The engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Even V8 models can get to 60 mph in less than five seconds, with a top speed of more than 180 mph. W12 models can reach 60 in less than 4.5 seconds.
The all-wheel drive system also helps in both challenging weather conditions as well as challenging roads. The system is capable of sending up to 60 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels when needed to help it feel more nimble out of tight corners. All Continental models, no matter the engine or body style, also get an 'S' sport mode and steering-wheel paddle-shifters.
Continental GT V8 and V8 S models are also considerably better on gas than the other W12 models in the lineup, thanks in part to cylinder-deactivation technology that allows them to smoothly and almost imperceptibly switch off half of their cylinders when coasting, or cruising at lower speeds. Base V8 models are capable of a very respectable 24 mpg highway, which allows a cruising range of more than 500 miles.
Whether it's the GT coupes or the GTC convertibles, all the Continental models are large, spacious 2-doors, with plenty of space for even the tallest drivers and front passengers to sprawl out in. There are two carved-out rear seating positions, and while smaller adults might find them fine, larger adults might have issues getting in and out especially. Trunk space is abundant, too. Most models come with a Continuous Damping Control air suspension system, which includes four different settings spanning the difference between comfort cruising and serious track driving.
The Continental GT V8 S is offered in coupe and convertible forms and includes a stiffer suspension tune (lowered nearly a half-inch), sharper steering and a more vocal, sporty exhaust sound, along with 'S' styling cues throughout. All the V8 Continental models get special 'figure-8' tailpipe exits that are quite easy to pick out from a distance; other differences include a black gloss matrix grille with chrome frame, a red enamel Bentley 'B' badge and a dark lower valance in back.
For those wanting the top-performance model in the lineup, with no budget limitations, the Continental Speed remains the one to get. It packs a specially tuned version of the W12 that makes 626-hp and 607 lb-ft of torque. It adds special adaptive control software for the transmission, to help get the most performance and extra grippy Pirelli PZero high-performance tires, as well as a number of visual changes like a dark-tinted grille and 'rifled' exhaust pipes. Together, this setup can get to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds and to a top speed of 206 mph.
The GTC convertible comes with a folding soft-top arrangement that has excellent protection from the elements as well as quick and neat stowage (it folds in just 25 seconds). There's an available wind deflector that makes the highway ride in these drop-tops even more pleasant.
The list of choices for options, accessories, trims and customization extras is vast, and the price could easily rise tens of thousands customizing the car. The so-called Mulliner Driving Specification adds a set of great upgrades, like quilted leather, drilled-alloy pedals, painted alloy wheels and upgraded tires and a knurled gear lever. Other options packed in some of the pricier packages include adaptive cruise control, ventilated seats with massage and a rearview camera system. There are many chances to upgrade to real-wood veneers, or to upgrade upholstery, The pricey, but impressive "Naim for Bentley" premium audio system may be among the best in-car audio systems available anywhere.
It's hard not to fall in love with a Bentley Continental GT when you're or . This big, stylish, luxurious grand tourer perfectly lends itself to that sort of driving -- and lifestyle.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm again behind the wheel of a Continental GT, this time on an unusually cold night in Los Angeles, slumming it in stop-and-go traffic on the 110 freeway in a rainstorm. This isn't the sort of carefree, beautiful motoring that best shows off the Conti's attributes. Yet, at the same time, it totally does.
Sitting in a Continental GT in traffic is like being wrapped in your own personal fortress of solitude -- and a lavishly appointed one, at that. The thick side glass mean you can't hear the other cars as they chug by, the quiet only interrupted every so often by the swoosh of the wipers clearing the rain from your windshield. At this 5-mph pace, my attention turns to the heated, massaging seats, delivering waves of relaxation up through the diamond-stitched leather. I care less about the powerful V8 engine under the Bentley's long hood and let the Naim audio system envelop me with my favorite tunes.
At a standstill, you find time to notice the finer details. This isn't my first time in Bentley's new Continental GT, but I'm still thoroughly impressed by so many little things. I like the way the knurled tips of the steering column stalks and temperature-control dials feel against my fingertips. I like the metallic Cotes de Geneva finish on the center console, and the way it warmly glows under the yellow hue of the streetlights. I find myself staring at the door panels and imagine a highly skilled seamstress hand-sewing every single one of those diamond stitches. Oh, and kudos to the engineer who signed off on the specific weight of the plungers that open and close the air vents.
The Good ~ Unparalleled levels of interior luxury ~ Super-strong V8 power ~ One of the best-looking big coupes around ~ Much more engaging to drive than before
The Bad ~ Only affordable to the 1% ~ Borrowed infotainment tech lacks Android Auto
The Bottom Line If you can afford it, the Bentley Continental GT is an unflappable grand tourer that will never cease to impress.
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